“By giving up the expectation that you will be paid to do the work you are passionate about, you can do both things with more integrity. You can make money to cover your expenses, and you can follow your heart without compromise.” Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez, Your Money Or Your Life
When I read that quote, I immediately thought I was hearing this big shiny truth aloud for the first time. For many of us, our life’s work and our paid employment are disparate activities.
To briefly give the quote context, the idea here is not to be employed at the wage-producing job until 65. Just the opposite: focus on saving $ from jobs (that don’t conflict with your ethics and allow some time for your passion) until you have “enough” capital to retire (or semi-retire) early and live simply. That retirement allows more time to engage in service or your life’s work/passion without resentment that you’re not getting paid appropriately.
As a young adult, I had the romantic idea that I would discover a career close to my heart. Afterall, other family members had what seemed like a “calling” to teach in the classroom. But not me. In finding a career path, the color of my parachute was obscured by low confidence, pessimism, and defeatism.
In my early 30’s, I learned optimism, found an emotionally-rewarding job, and embraced the new age adage “do what you love and the money will follow.” After years of looking over my shoulder waiting for the $ to catch up, I decided it was time to grow up and become a practical version of myself: I went back to school for something that was in demand and paid well (IT) and then moved away from home to become part of the supply.
My job has always been just what I do for $. I certainly don’t define myself by it. I don’t like talking “shop” when out with colleagues or friends. I’ve never been interested in office politics or climbing the corporate ladder—yes, that could have meant fewer years to early retirement, but at an increased cost of time and stress. And as it is, I like getting up in the morning and going to the office. I like my job and coworkers. I do my job well.
But in the back of my mind, I’ve also had questions of whether I’d given up or sold out or was not succeeding at Buddhist “right livelihood.” And I think I’ve always looked a little enviously at people who had financial support—a parent, spouse or other sponsor—to pursue creative dreams.
So I’d been living with a life’s work vs wage distinction for a while now, but had been missing two crucial pieces: 1) maximizing my savings in preparation for early retirement and 2) investing more time in What Is Important. I never found my life’s calling through paid employment, but releasing myself from dependence on those full-time wages may free me up to discover it. Maybe it’s one big thing like writing a novel or maybe it’s a whole bunch of smaller things like sitting on a meditation cushion, volunteering at an animal shelter, marching with a placard, and lying in a hammock with a good book.
- Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez with Monique Tilford
- What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles
- IT = Information Technology